Thinking young and growing older.

Seeing the frozen faces of aging stars on the Oscars this month (oh, Goldie) got me thinking: We’re just not always allowed to age gracefully. We spend billions in a vain attempt to stave off the effects of time. Worse, it seems we don’t always value the elderly in our society the way they do in most of the world.

As a child, I was keenly aware of how lucky I was to have my grandparents. Living overseas, we only saw them once a year (on home leave), but I still wrote them long letters weekly, a ritual I stuck to even through the hazy days of college. For me, it was a way to nurture a relationship that mattered (the young learning from the old and vice versa). Now that my parents are the Nonni and Nonno in our house, it’s the same with our boys. This appreciation for old folks is also on full display in Europe.

One Sunday last October, on one of my wife’s intimate curated trips to Italy, we found ourselves in the tiny village of Scanno, high in the mountains above Sulmona in earthquake ravaged L’Aquila. The village is called the “Pearl of Abruzzo” for good reason. It’s incredibly picturesque, and for extra eye candy, you have to drive through the clouds to get to it. But more than the old buildings and weathered surroundings, what impressed most were the old people of this little hamlet.


On this drizzly afternoon, they were hard to miss: A face peeking out from hanging laundry. A beaming shop proprietor. A woman walking with her grandchild. A smartly dressed man out for a stroll. An old woman navigating the narrow, wet streets with a cane. A man pausing to read a plaque in a tiny square. A tough faced woman walking with purpose. An old lady doing her shopping.

The final picture is of three little girls on that same afternoon. I include it because with luck, one day they too will grow old. With wrinkles, laugh lines, a wealth of life experience and rich stories to tell. But I suspect they might be more comfortable with this inevitable life transition that most of us.

Perhaps because they will still live with relatives close by and take family dinners together several times a week, as is the Mediterranean custom. Perhaps because they’ll still be active, not sedentary, not glued to the couch gazing at the “idiot box.”

Or perhaps, as Nils Lofgren sang in his brilliant cover of Carole King’s Going Back, they will have learned that “Thinking young and growing older ain’t no sin. I can play the game of life to win.”

Note: I took these pictures on a beat up iPhone 4S, threw a quick filter on ’em, and shared ’em on Instagram. I think their subjects still have plenty to say.










The Old Down and Back.

I travel a lot for work, and I try to enjoy every trip. When I’m with coworkers, it’s easy. Laughter. Cocktails. Repeat. Alone, it’s different. A few years ago, I had to do the Boston – NYC – Boston run to meet a freelance client. The tired old down and back? Hardly. Since time alone is in precious short supply for any busy person, I make the most of it.

The Train  Flying to LaGuardia is faster, but given the dehumanization that air travel often entails, I usually opt for the Acela, even with its flaws and even if I have to get up at five. I’ve got a nice view of the Rhode Island and Connecticut coastlines. I read the old fashioned newspaper. I work. And I arrive composed rather than undone.

RI and Connecticut coastline from the NYC-Boston Acela

Walk  No smelly cab for me. I walk the 20 blocks from Penn Station to lower Park Avenue, stopping at Eataly along the way. I share my wife’s love of a good food market, and Mario Batali’s ginormous take on the theme is that, on steroids. Moving on, I pause to genuflect before Pentagram out of respect for the incredible work this legendary design firm has produced over the years. They give our industry a good name.

Bountiful pasta selection at Mario Batali's Eataly in New York City

Butcher shop with high quality cuts, Mario Batali's Eataly, New York City

Exterior of world-class design firm Pentagram in New York City

Work  New York’s energy is infectious. I arrive at my meeting all fired up. The client is receptive. The trip is a success. Grateful, I invite them for lunch but they have another meeting. I’ve learned that there’s always another meeting, another deadline, another ‘to do’ to be crossed off the list. Today, enjoying life takes precedence.

Shop  The Gods must agree because stepping out onto Fifth Avenue, I spy (what’s this?) a Paul Smith shop. This could be dangerous. While I generally prize experiences over objects, I will also cop to being a materialistic f-cker, and I can’t get enough of Sir Paul’s quirky-meets-classic attire. I add to my collection, and the staff is all over the rare Paul Smith for Burton coat I’m wearing. It’s enough to make a geezer feel hip.

Exterior of Paul Smith shop on Lower Fifth Avenue, New York City

Limited edition Paul Smith for Burton snowboarding 2008

A Great Meal  Ideally, food should be enjoyed leisurely with people you like. But with clients and friends busy, I head for the tony sushi bar at 15 East. New York has no shortage of great sushi joints, and 15 East is a Union Square standout, with a Michelin Star and immaculate fish, beautifully presented in a tasteful setting. For the next hour or so, it’s my own little refuge while the chaos of NYC rages on outside.

Tony sushi bar at 15 East, Union Square, Manhattan

Classy interior of 15 East sushi bar, Union Square, Manhattan

Michelin Star sashimi at 15 East, Union Square, Manhattan

Freshest sushi and sashimi at 15 East, Union Square, Manhattan

Records  If I were uptown, I’d buzz through MOMA for a quick art fix. Instead, I head south through Washington Square Park to Generation Records on Thompson Street in the Village. Great for used stuff and punk. When I’m record shopping, I’m a kid again, and this is my playground. With rarities from the Stones, the Clash and The WHO in hand, I bolt before I do any more damage.

Generation Records, amazing record shop, Greenwich Village, New York City

The Woolworth Building, one of New York City's great classic skyscapers

More Walking  No car service today. The brisk walk back uptown takes me past two of my favourite skyscrapers, the Woolworth and New York Life buildings, and then through bustling Union Square for more great people watching. Up the way, I pop into the Ace Hotel for an espresso from the fedora-wearing baristas (okay, guys, you’re trying too hard).

Godzilla, King of the Monsters, in full attack mode

The Train  Penn Station is a zoo. Worlds are colliding, and all manner of human flotsam and jetsam are pushing and shoving like they’re fleeing Godzilla. I tip a Red Cap to bring me to the train before it’s posted on the board. This way, I get a seat with that killer seaside view. The ride home? I work, listen to music, sample Amtrak’s excellent wine list (not), and even grab a few Z’s.

I suspect that the guidebooks on Manhattan don’t mention the rose bushes in this fabled concrete jungle. Nonetheless, I found a way to stop and smell my share on this gray October day.

New York City, gray October day, Amtrak Acela to Boston

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